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'Optimus Popularis': Minimalist OLED QWERTY

For those who can afford it and those who obsess over design, your keyboard has arrived via Art Lebedev.

Art Lebedev Studio

Art Lebedev Studios made waves a few years ago when it introduced the Optimus Maximus. The QWERTY keyboard had individual OLED screens under most buttons, meaning it was almost infinitely customizable. It was thought to be nothing more than vaporware by some until it actually shipped. It remains a sought-after luxury keyboard.

And now, via its Live Journal (!?) the same studio has previewed a new slim, minimalist keyboard that also includes LCD keys, called the Optimus Popularis. It's slimmer and smaller than the Maximus, and the design's more modern. It shares more with laptop keyboards than with most desktop keyboards, and that's the point.

It loses the right-hand 10-key numerical keyboard that most full-size keyboards employ, but has a laptop-like function ("fn") key that changes some of the QWERTY keys into numeric keys. It also gains a horizontal status screen that displays a collection of widgets, which looks to me to be very handy. The Maximus uses USB to attach to computers, but we're hoping the Popularis can use Bluetooth, as it's becoming a popular way to attach keyboards.

It's a very attractive keyboard, if the photo is an accurate indication, but that design comes with a price; the designers say the keyboard will cost less than $1,000, which is an admirable ceiling for a fully interactive keyboard, but I'm not sure what the floor is. If they can get the price below $300, I could see a lot of these being sold, but I'm guessing it'll be somewhere around the $800 mark when it ships at the end of this year or beginning of next, which leaves it only within the reach of the wealthy or design-obsessed.

But man, I want one.